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Trad Guitar Basics

A Group Course for Intermediate Students

Next course starts 1 May 2019.

‘John is a master of many styles of guitar playing – Irish traditional, flamenco, jazz, rock, you name it – and his enthusiasm for all kinds of music is infectious. This series of classes was very informative and fun to attend, and it gave me the basis for practise and improvement over the coming months. I enjoyed them greatly.’
– M. Holmes

Click on the tabs for information.

Course Description

The first known use of guitar in Irish traditional music was by the Flanagan Brothers, who used the instrument to accompany dance tunes and songs in the US during the 1920s, but it was not until the 1950s and ’60s that it became popular in Irish music. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem incorporated guitar into their arrangements of Irish songs, and the use of the guitar by ballad singers became widespread during the ballad boom. Gradually the guitar became more commonly used in accompanying instrumental music, and there have been many developments in trad guitar since the 1960s. Artists such as Steve Cooney, Arty McGlynn, Denis Cahill, Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan have taken guitar playing in many interesting directions, developed unique styles, experimented with alternative tunings and absorbed a wide range of different influences, including jazz, rock and world music.

Waltons New School of Music’s Trad Guitar Basics course provides an extensive introduction to the form and how to play it. The course covers the following elements:

  • Chord shapes and strum patterns
  • Bass runs and chords
  • Using the capo
  • Combining chords and single-note playing
  • Alternative chords and variation
  • Standard and alternative tunings

Along the way participants will be introduced to the major guitarists and styles through listening sessions and practical examples.

Trad Guitar Basics is one of the New School’s group courses. We also offer private guitar lessons in a range of genres for students of all ages and skill levels. See Guitar • Bass • Ukulele Tuition for more information.

Techniques Covered

A video demonstration of some techniques covered in the course:

John Sweeney

John SweeneyJohn comes from a musical family and has been studying, playing and teaching guitar, as well as bodhrán, tin whistle and a range of Irish traditional instruments, for over thirty years. He works in many different styles, including blues, rock, jazz, traditional and flamenco, and he has performed and recorded with a number of Irish groups, gigging extensively throughout Ireland, Canada, the UK, the US and Spain. He began teaching in 1988 at the Scarborough School of Guitar in Toronto, Canada, where he also studied composition and flatpick technique. He has also studied flamenco guitar with Miguel Escudero Lopez in Seville, Spain and traditional music at St. Enda’s Folk Park & Museum, and he continues to develop techniques in a range of guitar styles. John was the only guitar player selected by the renowned vocal innovator and improviser Bobby McFerrin to perform with him in the National Concert Hall for Bobby McFerrin Meets Ireland (2013), a unique collaboration for the Waltons World Masters Series between Bobby and a small, select group of Irish performers – chosen to represent the creativity, tradition and spirit of Ireland and selected through an Ireland-wide audition process. He has taught at the New School since 2003 and also teaches our Introducing Guitar for Adults, Introducing Guitar for Teens and Introducing Bodhrán courses, as well as guitar and bodhrán courses for our Outreach Programme.


‘John is an excellent instructor who has time for each student. This ensures that whatever issues the student has are ultimately dealt with successfully.’
– T. Byrne

‘Great course and tuition. Keep up the good work!’
– F. Denny

‘Very enthusiastic and able teacher. Go raibh maith agat!’
– D. Dodd

‘The course tutor is excellent and also very flexible. He knows how to bring someone up to speed if they fall behind in class. Very enjoyable as well as instructive.’
– T. Dredge

‘A fresh, interesting approach. Lots of very useful styles, chords, etc.’
– P. Kelly

‘Fantastic teacher with stellar enthusiasm.’
– K. McElhinney

‘Good atmosphere, enthusiastic and supportive teacher, and small class size. This course helped me take another important step towards becoming a better guitar player.’
– F. MacCárthaigh

‘Really enjoyed the course and John – he is a wealth of knowledge!’
– L. Page

‘After each session I left with a smile on my face because I’d learned something new. Thank you very much and see you for another course.’
– M. Pardelinha

Have you taken – or are you taking – this course? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about it.


2018-2019 Third Term Course Schedule & Fee

9 weeks, 1 May – 26 June 2019
Wednesdays 6.30 – 7.30 pm

Tuition Fee: €180


Enrolment for this course requires a completed Enrolment Form and full payment of the course fee. Places are limited to eight, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date of enrolment. A number of our group courses fill in advance of their start dates, and early enrolment is recommended.


Purchasing this course as a gift?
Please complete a Gift Certificate Booking Form.


Questions about the course?


Trad Slow Sessions

Trad Slow SessionsParticipants in this course are also welcome to attend our Trad Slow Sessions. These are traditional Irish music sessions in all ways except one: the tempo. We play the session tunes at a slower than normal pace (often less than half the speed), so that beginning and intermediate players can more easily learn the tunes and join in the session. Trad Slow Sessions take place once a month on Friday evenings.

See Trad Slow Sessions for more information, a list of tunes and 2018-2019 dates.

Trad Guitar Basics
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